Ian Dean dis­cov­ers why choice mat­ters, on sea and land, in As­sas­sin’s Creed Odyssey

PlayStation Official Magazine (UK) - - CONTEST -

The game’s cre­ative di­rec­tor ex­plains why choice mat­ters.

For the most part, un­til now you’ve al­ways known where you are with a new As­sas­sin’s Creed. Even when Ubisoft flipped the world on us and made Haytham Ken­way the ini­tial pro­tag­o­nist of As­sas­sin’s Creed III, things even­tu­ally fell into their stabby places. There are al­ways Tem­plars to kill, the world to put into or­der, and, if you have the time, a whole bunch of shiny things to col­lect. With As­sas­sin’s Creed Odyssey all the usual things are pushed to one side. There are no Tem­plars to knife in the back be­cause they don’t ex­ist, and nei­ther do the As­sas­sins. The world is a blank slate and, to a de­gree, as a mer­ce­nary with few al­le­giances, you can de­cide its fate.

It’s the rea­son Ubisoft Québec, the de­vel­op­ment stu­dio be­hind As­sas­sin’s Creed Syn­di­cate, chose to wind the clock right back to be­fore the found­ing of the As­sas­sins club when mak­ing Ori­gins. “We went back be­cause we wanted to put choice in the game, so we went back­wards to where you don’t have that tra­di­tional As­sas­sin’s code to play by, be­cause it doesn’t ex­ist,” clar­i­fies Jonathan Du­mont, cre­ative di­rec­tor on Odyssey. “You’re now in a place where you’re mak­ing choices based on your own moral code and that can lead you in some interesting di­rec­tions.”


Your com­pass, moral or real, will ul­ti­mately lead you to the Aegean Sea, and your choice of com­pan­ions will be just as im­por­tant as the di­rec­tion you sail in. You have four slots in the ship’s crew menu, where you can add new re­cruits. These can be any­one, as Du­mont tells us “most NPCs in the game are re­cruitable”. The choice of who to con­script, and when, is down to you. Any­one suc­cumb­ing to your charms (or a sharp blow to head) will add value to your ship, the Adres­tia. “They come with unique bonuses that can af­fect your ship,” says Du­mont, who ex­plains new crew mem­bers can im­prove ar­mour or re­fresh rates of at­tacks, such as flur­ries of fiery ar­rows. The rar­ity of NPCs af­fects the bonuses they of­fer, so hard-tofind or tough-to-de­feat char­ac­ters – some will need to be won over in com­bat or in con­ver­sa­tion – will come with more valu­able at­tributes.

“You can scout with your ea­gle [called Ikaros] and see NPCs’ stats, then you can go in and knock them out – you have spe­cial moves for knock­ing out peo­ple – and then you can re­cruit them,” ex­plains Du­mont.

You’ll want to main­tain a good crew be­cause you only have one ship in the game. Just like in As­sas­sin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, where you could de­velop your galleon, in Odyssey your two-tiered bireme can be up­graded, re­mod­elled, and cus­tomised. There’s noth­ing un­usual, but adding new sails or ram­ming de­vices im­proves ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity and at­tack prow­ess. If you want to keep your press-ganged crew happy, then there’s also the op­tion to un­lock or buy new out­fits.


Un­like in Ori­gins sail­ing here is a full-time oc­cu­pa­tion, and once you’ve com­pleted the mis­sion that in­tro­duces you to the Adres­tia and its cap­tain, Barn­abas, you’re free to head any­where you please. Du­mont tells us you can call on the Adres­tia from any dock­ing point in the game, and once on board you have ac­cess


to Boun­ties, unique mis­sions and spe­cial con­tracts.

Du­mont de­tails how Odyssey’s ship-play is akin to a blend of both Ori­gins’ and Black Flag’s ap­proach to naval com­bat. “We fo­cus on ex­plo­ration like in Black Flag – you can jump off at any point and go div­ing – but we also fo­cus on the ac­tion of Ori­gins.”

In-game this means there’s a nod to the close-quar­ter fights of Black Flag, as well as the tight de­sign of Ori­gins, with flam­ing ar­row bar­rages and ram­ming… “I’d say it’s more fast­paced than Ori­gins, and ram­ming is the main thing now. When you get this right it has dra­matic con­se­quences [ri­val ships splin­ter in half]. In fact, we had to com­pletely redo this whole por­tion of the game since Ori­gins.”

Ul­ti­mately this as­pect of Odyssey is less a naval game like Ori­gins and more a way to in­ves­ti­gate the world, to is­land-hop at your leisure and track down trea­sures – their hid­ing places are scrib­bled onto maps bought or found in the game. You can even jump ship at any mo­ment to ex­plore ship­wrecks, sunken tem­ples, and maze-like caves.

“Down be­low the sea are ship­wrecks and tem­ples. If you dive down you can see sharks [as well as dol­phins and whales]. The caves have mul­ti­ple states so you’ll be able to sur­face in air pock­ets to take a breath be­fore con­tin­u­ing on. And re­mem­ber these are un­ex­plored, so any­thing can be down there…”


Any­thing, like a Kraken? Du­mont falls si­lent, but he does share how the myths of An­cient Greece will seep into the game. “Me­dusa makes up the First Civil­i­sa­tion part of our game,” ex­plains the dev. “It’s a part of the world that af­fects how peo­ple think, these myth­i­cal crea­tures could ex­ist, the peo­ple in the world cer­tainly think they do, but maybe there’s an­other rea­son. You could head over to an is­land and every­one be­lieves there’s a crea­ture there, but maybe it’s some­thing else.”

The game is lit­tered with ref­er­ences to, and pos­si­bly even phys­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tions of, those clas­sic crea­tures, and an ex­pert in Greek his­tory is em­bed­ded with the team to en­sure the tales are treated ac­cu­rately. “We’re in­spired by the clas­sic Greek myths and le­gends; Odysseus is definitely an in­flu­ence,” Du­mont tells us. He teases, you may not be able to trust your eyes: “The game is ac­cu­rate, and myths are myths, but you know, maybe we go off on our own and have some fun with them.”

It all ties into how this As­sas­sin’s Creed is treat­ing the First Civil­i­sa­tion as­pect of the game. “We’re go­ing deeper into this as­pect of our fran­chise,” ex­presses Du­mont, the sug­ges­tion be­ing the pow­er­ful relics scat­tered through an­cient Greece are hav­ing an in­flu­ence on the peo­ple who come into con­tact with them. The myth­i­cal crea­tures we’ve come to love are here, but not what we’d ex­pect them to be. It’s yet an­other ex­am­ple of how Odyssey is play­ing with the fran­chise as much as with his­tory, plac­ing ques­tion marks where there should be ex­cla­ma­tions, giv­ing us the power to in­ter­pret and make de­ci­sions about the world we’re play­ing within.


This brings us neatly back to the idea of ‘choice’. Odyssey in­tro­duces the abil­ity to af­fect the game in real ways, in­clud­ing the end­ing you’ll even­tu­ally see. De­ci­sion-mak­ing plays through the en­tire game. It’s most ev­i­dent in con­ver­sa­tions where you can side with char­ac­ters, choose com­bat strate­gies, or ro­mance char­ac­ters – ev­ery time you do it af­fects your re­la­tion­ships with every­one else in the game. (There’s over 30 hours of recorded di­a­logue in Odyssey, so that’s a lot of choiceled chit-chat.) You’ll earn a rep­u­ta­tion – good or bad –with some char­ac­ters, and they’ll re­mem­ber how you treated them, “not in a ‘stats in a menu’ way, but in a sub­tler way,” qual­i­fies Du­mont, ex­plain­ing you’ll have the op­tion some­times to re­coup things you say to get an an­tag­o­nis­tic char­ac­ter back on your side.

Most choices are per­ma­nent, though, “but we want to em­pha­sise there’s no bad choices,” in­ter­jects Du­mont. “But we do fo­cus down on that whole epic Greek tragedy as­pect to the game, so while there’s no bad


choices, bad things will hap­pen based on what you de­cide.”

There are al­ways con­se­quences to your choices. Some­times this can be sub­tle, but even when this is the case the dev ex­plains how the game will let you know, how it’ll fore­shadow how your de­ci­sion will im­pact events. “For ex­am­ple,” says Du­mont, “in one quest we give you the op­tion to lie. You’re sent on a quest to find a sword, you come back and the NPC asks if you found it, but you quite like it, so you lie and say you never found it and keep the sword. But there will be a con­se­quence to this.”


This sounds like the di­rec­tion As­sas­sin’s Creed should al­ways have been park­our­ing to­wards, but we have concerns: does this mean whole sec­tions of the game could be closed to us based on de­ci­sions we make? “No. I want to make it clear, we’re not lock­ing the player out of con­tent […] but you will get ad­di­tional stages or steps to mis­sions in side-quests,” ex­plains Du­mont, nip­ping choice-led gam­ing’s Achilles’ heel in the bud.

Your ac­tions can af­fect the loot re­wards earned from quests. Ir­ri­tat­ing a quest-giver or mak­ing life-and-death de­ci­sions can im­pact on the gear you’ll be awarded. We’ve al­ready heard how you can lie to key char­ac­ters and keep trea­sures for your­self, but maybe you’ll get some­thing even bet­ter down the line if you ’fess up and hand over the cov­eted quest item.

The main quest line will al­ways re­main the same, con­firms Du­mont, with Alex­ios/Kas­san­dra’s jour­ney from out­cast to revered war­rior re­main­ing on a solid tra­jec­tory. But when you ven­ture into a side-quest any­thing is pos­si­ble. Your de­ci­sions can af­fect the world in real ways.

“I’m not say­ing you’ll make some choices and then the whole is­land will be on fire and every­one’s dy­ing,” says Du­mont, be­fore adding with a laugh, “al­though that could hap­pen. But the choices you make can af­fect who’s on your side, who the leader of a re­gion is – Athe­nian or Spar­tan – be­cause you’re a mer­ce­nary, you’re on no-one’s side, and these de­ci­sions will af­fect quests and the world. And re­mem­ber, our world is al­ways in flux, it’s al­ways chang­ing, re­gions will con­stantly be chang­ing sides based on who has strength and resources.”

Taken holis­ti­cally, Odyssey could present an As­sas­sin’s world that’s con­stantly open to change, one that can shift on a spo­ken word or sword strike. Re­gions can shift loy­al­ties, you can in­flu­ence rulers, and maybe spread or dampen be­liefs in myth­i­cal crea­tures. And it’ll all be done on land and sea, with no di­vi­sions as to how you ex­plore this open world. It’s set at a time when or­der and chaos are clash­ing, the bedrock themes of any As­sas­sin’s game, but you’re not an As­sas­sin. It presents a world of po­ten­tial, on the cusp of chaos, and your choices af­fect how far it tips. It leads us to ask how far this free­dom of choice can be taken. Can we, for ex­am­ple, choose not to as­sas­si­nate tar­gets? Can we save lives rather than take them? “Ab­so­lutely, you don’t need to kill all of your as­sas­si­na­tion tar­gets, you de­cide,” says Du­mont. Things re­ally are dif­fer­ent this time around.


In Odyssey you have the power to change the game’s world with words and swords.

We’re ex­cited by the pos­si­bil­i­ties of the ship com­bat, and be­ing able to go from dis­tant fire-fights to board­ing and go­ing hand-to-hand.

Whichever char­ac­ter you play as, you’ll have a wealth of ro­mance op­tions.

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